The countdown is on for the 2014 Sochi Olympics and on Sunday the fields were finalized for both the Men’s and Women’s Hockey competitions.
On the men’s side, Austria, Latvia and Slovenia won the final Olympic Qualification tournaments this past weekend to earn the last three spots in the 12-team Olympic field.
The final three qualifying nations will compete at the Sochi Games with the nine countries- Russia, Finland, Czech Republic, Sweden, Canada, Slovakia, United States, Norway and Switzerland- that earned direct entry based on the International Ice Hockey Federation’s May 2012 rankings.
For the first time since the 1948 Winter Games, Germany will not be represented in the men’s hockey competition. Germany beat Austria 3-2 in overtime in Sunday’s final game of qualifying, but based on earlier results in round-robin play, the 10th ranked Germans needed to win in regulation to qualify for Sochi.
Had Germany qualified for the 2014 Olympics, it is possible that Capitals prospect Phillip Grubauer would have been selected as one of the team’s three goalies. San Jose Sharks backup goalie Thomas Greiss is the only active German netminder in the NHL, while the 21-year-old Grubauer has emerged as one of Germany’s top prospects at any position.
With 15th ranked Austria qualifying for the Olympics for the first time since 2002, NHL leading scorer Thomas Vanek (11 goals and 23 points in 12 games) of the Buffalo Sabres could make his Olympic debut in Sochi.
NHL players are expected to participate in the Sochi Games although that is still pending an agreement between the NHLPA and the NHL’s Board of Governors.
Former Capitals netminder Cristobal Huet – who now plays professionally in Switzerland-, started for his native France this past weekend, but the French national team lost out to Latvia for one of the final Olympic berths. Latvia is coached by former Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders bench boss Ted Nolan.
On the women’s side, Germany and Japan earned the final two berths in the eight team Olympic field. They join the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia and Switzerland.
Below are the men’s groupings for round-robin play (along with IIHF rankings) which were announced Sunday. Round-robin play begins February 8, 2014.
Group A: Russia (1), Slovakia (6), USA (7), Slovenia (18)
Group B: Finland (2), Canada (5), Norway (8), Austria (15)
Group C: Czech Republic (3), Sweden (4), Switzerland (9), Latvia (11)